It’s June, so that means it is Pride month. And that means the symbol of the rainbow used to promote Gay Pride is once again ubiquitous, cleverly inserted into corporate logos, Facebook avatars, and virtue signals. Even though only 4.5% of Americans identify as LGBTQ (itself a significant increase as the number was only 3.5% in 2014), the entire nation it seems must pay attention to the fact that some are incredibly proud of their personal attractions and bedroom activities.
Even if I were to grant that this movement rose out of a legitimate need to protect gay and lesbian folk who were regularly assaulted or impugned legally, it now clearly seems to be about a celebration of sexual orientation at best and course sexual desire at worst. After all, is there a serious, ongoing assault on LGBT persons, and haven’t they won the right to marry just like everyone else? The most serious cases of victimhood from this movement seem to be prohibitions of bathroom use among trans persons and trans persons being labeled with the wrong pronoun.
Yes, there are occasional cases of assaults, but it is not clear if those are strict hate crimes because a person is trans or if there are extenuating circumstances. Still, the proverbial cat is out of the bag and now that Pride Month is a “thing,” June will likely never be the same again, and the ever-present rainbow will become for many a symbol that really means: resistance to the LGTBQ agenda is futile.
What the Rainbow Meant Originally
But it wasn’t always so for the humble rainbow. Before the Junes of recent memory, the rainbow was the symbol given to mankind as a promise to the world that God would never again destroy the earth in a flood. Thus, the rainbow was a symbol of God’s grace, for God’s prerogative to judge the world for its wickedness remained. Every time we view the rainbow, then, what we should remember is a destructive event of epic proportions brought on by our rank disobedience, and God’s unmerited favor towards us in not repeating said destruction.
What follows that promise is a series of more specific covenants with Abraham and his offspring. The final covenant in this series is with Jesus Christ himself: “This is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for many people for the forgiveness of sin.” The covenant with Abraham established a particular relationship with a particular people: the twelve tribes of Israel. The Mosaic covenant some 400+ years later included specific laws. These Levitical laws established a detailed sacrificial, civil and moral Law for God’s chosen people.
It is this Mosaic Covenant that would establish the basis of Western culture. It is no exaggeration to suggest that the Mosaic Law is, in addition to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the framework by which we understand the Western world. While it is agreed upon by virtually all Christians that the ceremonial and many of the civil laws in the Mosaic covenant have been fulfilled in Christ and do not apply to us today, the moral Law of God remains in effect. Therefore, the summary of this moral law—the Ten Commandments—has served as an authoritative word on the formation of society and the grounding for all law which follows.
As a brief aside, some Christians believe many elements of the Mosaic civil law remain in effect, and I am open to that. You would be in good standing, for example, to look at the principle of the civil law in the Old Testament and apply it to the modern day or you might defend the death penalty on the basis that God is not, in principle, opposed to it, as witnessed by the civil law of Israel. Which Old Testament civil laws are still “in effect” or continue to serve as a basis for our civil laws is a matter of debate on a case-by-case basis.
So, we have worked on the general principles of at least the second table of the Ten Commandments for roughly 1,600 years, the time Roman rule started to come to an end and the influence of the Church increased exponentially. And of all the areas of greatest change and improvement (depending on your definition of improvement) was the Christian understanding of faithfulness in marriage and chastity in singleness. Christian couples were expected to be faithful to one another; children were seen as a blessing; homosexuality was a clear sin; and marriage was understood as between one man and one woman.
The Meaning of Love Becomes Distorted
So what changed? How did we go from understanding the rainbow as a promise with God on the other side of disobedience and destruction to a symbol for unrestrained lust of every variety? It is hard to point to any one thing, of course, but I would say a very basic change in our understanding of the Law of God is to blame. For heathens with no regard for the Law of God, the Law of God would not matter anyway. But among those who still respected the Law of God, how did all of them come to embrace Pride Month when a generation ago they likely would not have?
I think it comes down to a basic misunderstanding of Jesus’ clear summary on the Law of God: “Love God with your heart, mind, soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” Somewhere, we lost sight of what costly love looks like and came to believe that love—however we may understand it—trumps all. The hard work of obedience to the Law or looking to the Old Testament for wisdom or insight into the context of this love was ignored in favor of cheap grace: love was all that God wanted from us, and wouldn’t you know it, we are experts at love!
In fact, we are so good at love, we have new definitions of love, expansions of love, new definitions of marriage, and even repudiations of marriage in the name of love. Since the basic message of God’s Law is love, virtually anything is tolerated so long as it is done in the name of love.
In God’s Law, love is confined. It does not mean license, but rather, service. Love of neighbor is service to neighbor. Now, we agree with Jesus in the summary of the Law but use our preferred understanding of love instead. Where we once really believed that God would have every right and power to judge us and even destroy us (and the rainbow reminded us of that when we saw it), now we indulge in every fantasy we can imagine and accompany it with a rainbow.
If you ever wanted an example of the reclamation and ownership of a symbol, this is as good as it gets. And as the Pride Parades begin their march, the world would do well to observe what the second use of the rainbow really represents. And at some point, we should ask if this is a symbol worth championing.